Foreign Policy‘s Josh Garnaut brings us the story of Ji Pomin, who was one of the major causes for the Jiang Zemin death rumour of 2010* blowing up like it did. After officials traced the rumour back to him, Ji was picked up by the security services, but unlike say, the Final Destination tweeter, he was out of jail within a few days. Why? Because Ji Poming is a princeling, part of the small class of Chinese pseudo-aristocrats untouchable even by the all powerful CPC.
Because his father fell from power, Ji Pomin didn’t get the same advantages as other princelings; he studied aeronautical engineering and worked as a scholar at the state think tank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences before retiring in 2006. He is one of China’s dozens of forgotten princelings who continues to enjoy status but not power.
The daylight abduction of a princeling like Ji, in downtown Beijing, shows just how delicate the subject of elite politics has become. That Ji wasn’t tortured, that he felt emboldened to speak his mind, and that his captors politely drove him back to where they found him two days later, shows the privileges afforded by his status. The secret police had originally lured him out on to the street, says Ji, so they would not disturb his then 86 year-old mother, who had joined the revolutionary struggle with his father at the age of 14 in 1938. By contrast, Ji says they ransacked the homes of several people who received his message. And a historian whose work had influenced Ji’s negative views on Jiang was reportedly arrested and convicted of subversion in May 2011.
*Readers may also remember the Jiang Zemin death rumour of 2011, which, thanks to micro-blogging, spread even faster and wider than its predecessor.